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Fish Oil and OCD – Supplementation Reduces the Effects of Mental Stress

2 min read

Fish Oil and OCD – Is Omega 3 Fish Oil Good for Depression?



Positive results in clinical trials in these psychological disorders show that EPA and DHA may exert an effect in blunting the stress response.

The stress response is largely the result of activation of the sympathetic nervous system–the arm of our autonomic nervous system that produces the flight or fight response. Increased heart rate, blood pressure characterizes the stress response, and shunting of blood flow to muscles so that we can escape danger.

Since fish oils are also known to affect cardiovascular function, it is once again possible that some of the beneficial effects may be because of the blunting of the sympathetic nervous system within the brain.

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Can Fish Oil Help With Anxiety?

Background Data:

The importance of omega-3 fatty acids to brain function relates to their role in the phospholipid composition of nerve cell membranes. Studies have shown that EPA and DHA influence:

  • The fluidity of brain cell membranes
  • Neurotransmitter synthesis
  • Neurotranmitter binding
  • Signal transmission
  • The activity of key enzymes that break down neurotransmitters like serotonin, epinephrine, dopamine, and norepinephrine

Clinical studies in patients with a variety of psychological conditions show fish oils produce a mild antianxiety effect. This effect may be because of dampening the sympathetic nervous system’s response to stress.


New Data:

In an elaborate double-blind study conducted at Michigan Technological University, blood pressure, heart rate (HR), muscle sympathetic nerve activity, and blood flow through the calf were recorded during a 5-minute mental stress protocol in 67 non-hypertensive subjects before and after 8 weeks of fish oil or placebo supplementation. The dosage of fish oil provided 1.6 g eicosapentaenoic acid and 1.1 g docosahexaenoic acid for a total EPA+DHA of 2.7 g).

Results showed fish oil reduced the increase in heart rate produced by mental stress.  However, it did not alter blood pressure reactivity to mental stress. Fish oil did blunt muscle sympathetic nerve activity to mental stress.

These results show fish oils reduced the effects of the sympathetic nervous system on the cardiovascular system. This further shows beneficial effects in both psychological and cardiovascular disorders are because of this central effect.

The take away message is that it is important to take roughly 3,000 mg EPA+DHA if a person has significant daily mental stress. It is good for both your brain and your heart.


Carter JR, Schwartz CE, Yang H, Joyner MJ. Fish oil and neurovascular reactivity to mental stress in humans. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2013 Apr 1;304(7):R523-30.

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